The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Anxious Starter

kap1492's picture

Anxious Starter

Before getting to the meat and potatoes of my questions, I want to warn you that I am as green as they come when it comes to knowledge on sourdough starters. I know that these questions have been asked numerous times before but I think I will understand it better if my specific situation is used. I created my starter using the pineapple starter method on 1/26/13. Noticeable activity began on day 5 1/30/13. At this point, I decided to create two different starters: one WW and the other being a white (AP flour) starter. Beginning on day 5 I began to feed the starter at a 2 oz. of starter: 1 oz. of flour: 1oz of water for a 2:1:1 ratio daily. Both starters have risen in a predictable manner and have doubled in size within 4 hours. By the time the next feeding is due, both starters have dropped close to the pre-feeding level. Both starters have taken on a yeasty smell similar to beer and are littered throughout with several small bubbles. The AP starter has a pancake batter like consistency while the WW starter has a cream of wheat texture, neither of them are runny. These characteristics are consistent to date which is 2/2/13 which has been a total of 8 days since first mixed. At this point, I know things are progressing well but this is where all of my questions come into play.

1. At this point should I increase my feedings to every 12hrs instead of every 24hrs and for how long until I can start to use my starter?

2. Should I increase the size of the feedings as well, and if so what amount of starter, water, and flour volumes should I use?

3. When increasing the feedings frequency and quantity do you still remove a portion of the starter with each feeding or every second or third feeding?

4. For example, lets say a SD recipe calls for 4 oz. of starter or 7 oz. of starter. How much do you feed and how often before you have the right amount of starter and enough stater left over to keep your starter going?

5. On average, how much starter do you keep on had when you bake say twice a week?

6. Which AP flour is best to use, should I use a high gluten bread flour or just a general AP flour that doesn't have a high gluten content?

Sorry for so many questions, I just want to get things right the first time and not have to start over if I messed up. Thank you for your responses and patience.

Ford's picture

Hello kap1492,

I urge you to read Mike Averys sourdough primer and you will find that a lot of your questions are answered.

I'll give you some quick answers to get you started.

1/ you can start using the starter when it doubles in volume within 4 hours of feeding and you can start feeding on a 12 hour schedual, but the starter probably will not have reached its potential of flavor until after 2 weeks of this point.

2/ I would not increase the size of feedings.

3/ Keep the size of the starter managable.  You do not need to store a lot of starter.

4/ Keep no more on hand than you can conveniently build to the amount needed for baking.

4/ If you have only 1 oz. of starter and you need 7 oz, then feed the starter equal weights of flour and water let it ferment until it doubles  and again feed it equal wights of flour and water and wait until it doubles in volume.  You will now have 9 oz of active starter.  Use the 7 oz. and store the 2 oz.

5/ Keep no more on hand than you can build to the amount necessary for your next baking.

6/ Use AP flour the extra gluten in the bread flour will only get destroyed on long storage.

Now, go read Mike's starter primer, and I wish you patience in baking with sourdough.



placebo's picture

You'll probably get a lot of opinions, often conflicting, on how to feed and maintain your starter. You should develop a regimen depending on your own experiences and needs. Don't worry — it's pretty hard to destroy a starter. You've already gotten past the hardest part, which is making the starter. I'll second the recommendation that you check out Mike Avery's site. He provides some guidelines, and you'll note that he acknowledges that some of his advice is based simply on what has worked for himself and for others. He has no justification other than that. It's as good a place to start as any.

Question 4: It depends. I find when I take my starter out of storage in the refrigerator, it can often take a few feedings to get it back to normal activity, so I'll use several feedings to build up to the amount I need. On the other hand, if my starter has been maintained at room temperature so that it's already active, I'll build the amount I need in one feeding.

Question 6: To use for what? Feeding the starter or baking the bread? For feeding, I've used both AP and bread flour, and I haven't really noticed a difference. When I make bread, AP flour results in a slightly softer loaf. Keep in mind it also depends on what specific brands you're using. I use King Arthur AP flour, which is already a borderline bread flour because of its relatively high protein content. Why AP and not bread flour? Primarily because the Target here doesn't sell KAF bread flour anymore, and it's pretty expensive at the other markets that actually carry it.


kap1492's picture

So I took the advice and check out the site that was recommended. A Lot of good general advice that I am still combing through. I guess if the one concept that I am still hung up on is the feedings. Today was the first day that I have move to feeding every 12hrs. I fed today at 12:30pm and as we speak it is 10 til 4 and both starters have already doubled and have begun to drop. Up until today I have removed 2oz of starter and mixed in 1 oz each of flour and water. Today I did not remove any starter and just added 1 oz of water and flour each. Tonight when I go to feed again, I am going to remove only 2 oz of starter and follow with the same 2:1:1 ratio that I have been doing to keep my starters volume minimal and manageable. Is this the correct way to maintain a starter. For example, let say that I plan on baking on Wednesday and today is Monday and the recipe calls for 4 oz of starter. If I have 2 oz of starter I need to come up with a net of 6 oz of starter, 4 oz for for the recipe and 2 oz so I can keep my starter going. Over the next 2 days I will continue to add 1 oz of flour and water for 3 feedings every 12hrs without discarding any starter until I am ready to bake. Is this a correct ratio for feeding: feed 1 is 2:1:1 for a total of 4 oz, feed 2 is 4:1:1 total of 6 oz, and feed 3 is 6:1:1 for a total of 8 oz. It seems that I am over thinking this concept, something I often do. If this is correct and I am on the right path, great. At which point is it best to use the starter, when it is mixed or until it has doubled? If not could someone simplify this for me. Sorry that this has become somewhat redundant and 


placebo's picture

You generally want to at least the double the amount of starter at each feeding, so 2:1:1 is the least amount of food to give the starter.

In your example, I'd feed normally on Monday and on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday night, I'd feed using a 1:1:1 ratio so that I turn 2 ounces into 6 ounces. On Wednesday morning, I'd use 4 ounces of the active starter to make the bread, and feed the remaining 2 ounces.